High risks for seniors in traffic

Anyone who lived inNew York or Tokyo in the year 1970 was part of a global minority – despite the more than 10 million inhabitants in these cities. Today, there are already 23 of these mega-cities – nearly every tenth person in the world lives in one of them. Experts say that the global population will increase by another 2.3 billion people by 2050, all of them will be absorbed by urban areas. The number of megacities could grow to about one hundred by then.

If we consider the masses of people moving around in these cities and the insupportable level of road traffic, it becomes clear that our current traffic systems will no longer be able to meet demands. Until new concepts are put into practice, the most vulnerable people on the roads must be protected.

More traffic and more people over 75 on the roads will mean higher risk in the future.

More traffic and more people over 75 on the roads will mean higher risk in the future.

Here are some timely tips:

Top 10 expert tips for more road safety - not just for senior citizens

The world is aging, as this table shows:

Percentage of population over 75

"It is clear that the topic of road safety is becoming ever more significant in an aging society. In Europe and North America the number of over-75 year-olds will double by the year 2050, and in Asia it will even quadruple. For a good quality of life in old age you need to stay mobile even when your sight, hearing, flexibility and reactions slowly start to deteriorate," explains Brigitte Miksa, demography expert at Allianz.

As life expectancy for people in most parts of the world is increasing more and more, the number of older people in traffic is also increasing. TheAllianz Center for Technology (AZT) has investigated the frequency of accidents among older people. The research was part of the AZT’s membership of the European Road Safety Charta and was conducted together with the European Transport Safety Council. The conclusion: while the frequency of accidents among 65-year-olds is no higher, it increases disproportionately from the age of 75 onwards.

"The cause of accidents for people over 75 is often that older people lose track of things more quickly in complex situations," says Christoph Lauterwasser, Managing Director of the AZT.

Driving experience protects you up to the age of 75

"Initially, older people compensate for a loss of their physical strengths with their greater experience behind the wheel or a more careful driving style," says Lauterwasser. As a result, the number of accidents caused by older drivers is on average far lower than the number of accidents caused by very young drivers.

However, it is striking that driving errors noticeably increase beyond the age of 75. "The over-75 group has a 45-percent greater risk of causing an accident in comparison with younger senior citizens," Lauterwasser explains.

Older people often victims as pedestrians or cyclists

According to the AZT, many senior citizens at one point give up driving and willingly hand in their driver's licenses. But once they become pedestrians or cyclists, more danger is looming: two thirds of all senior citizens who die in accidents are not the cause of the accident but the victim. In comparison, younger drivers are victims only in one third of the cases; in two thirds of the cases, they have caused the accident. 

For senior citizens even the smallest changes to traffic infrastructure could have a big effect: more seating and rest areas for pedestrians, longer traffic light sequences or lower speeds on escalators could all make the lives of older people more secure.

Safer driving for longer: Solutions for the technology of the car

Innovative vehicle technologies ("driver assistance systems") can facilitate driving for older people in particular and thus enable people to drive safely for longer. The AZT supports the development of innovative driver assistance systems through regularly analyzing their effectiveness and accident research.

Four driver assistance systems, which are still being developed, were analyzed: “Active Break Assist”, “Intersection Assistance”, “Safety for Pedestrians and Cyclists” and “Integrated Lateral Controller”. Lauterwasser looks to the future: "If everyone were equipped with four of the systems currently in development, around half of all accidents with bodily injuries could be avoided or their effects could be reduced." When developing driver assistance systems, special attention must be paid to making them easy to use, such as making the display easy to read. Otherwise they will not be accepted by senior citizens.

Mobility in old age - an important factor of the quality of life

Mobility in old age means being able to take part in social activities and participate in society. This leads to greater satisfaction and ensures quality of life. According to the AZT study, the car meets the needs of senior citizens for individual mobility and is therefore their vehicle of choice: nearly two thirds of all distances were covered with a car.

Many countries are responding to the increasing number of older people on the road by introducing strict requirements, such as temporary drivers' licenses which can only be extended after a medical check-up. However, the accident researchers of the AZT reject obligatory eyesight and health tests. "Optional tests are of course recommendable," says Lauterwasser. "But we do not see old age in itself as enough reason to limit people's right to a driver's license."

Already today traffic is especially dangerous for the very young and old people. Mobility concepts of tomorrow must make sure that traffic remains manageable in the mega-cities – for all age groups. "In an aging society the needs of old people must be given greater attention. In light of the demographic challenge all of society must cooperate in order to ensure safe mobility for all," contends Brigitte Miksa.

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Claudia Mohr-Calliet
Allianz SE
Phone +49.89.3800-18797
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Katerina Piro
Allianz SE
Phone +49.89.3800-16048
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